Stuck in the doghouse

A letter writer longs to escape the family’s dog kennel business.

Can our elder help with their job search?

Dear EWC

My family owns a professional dog kennel, which is on our property. I’m 16 years old and have been semi working here my whole life. Now that I’m a Junior, I was basically pushed into working at the kennel. Well, I feel like my whole life revolves around the kennel. I come home from school and help my mom (business owner) by feeding, talking to clients, training, etc., and even on the weekends it is all dogs or clients. We never really get to go anywhere due to this being a full time business, 24/7 literally. My Thanksgiving breaks are nothing but working all day. I never really get to just sit around and rest or enjoy my breaks. It’s tiring… I’ve started to resent the business for taking all my time and my mom’s time. She is always super-busy so we never get to just go shopping or go out to eat. We never stop. What is the best way to resolve my problems? (Other than getting a new job because I have applied places and never heard back. Most places here don’t like to hire 16 year olds, though I drive). Please give me some guidance.

Cairnie replies

It does sound like much of your life revolves around the dog kennel. You are clearly helpful to your mom, supporting the family business, working with clients and the dogs, and working weekends there. First I want to say: Good for you! You are responsible, respectful of the family, and supportive of the business. I hope you recognize and appreciate your contributions to the family and to the family business. You sound mature and hard working.

At the same time, I can understand how this can be tiring, repetitive, and intrusive into the other ways you’d like to spend your time. Who wouldn’t want some down time, to think, to read, to relax, to have fun? It sounds like you miss your mom being a mom, too.

I have two responses to your letter, especially the questions at the end of it. First, have you spoken to your mom? Maybe by telling her how much you respect how hard she works, that you hope she sees how supportive and hard you’ve been working, and that you miss just being able to have time as a family. Have you considered telling her what you’ve written here? That you’d like to occasionally be able to go shopping with her, eat out, or whatever might be fun for the two of you? I’m guessing that she might also be missing these things, too, and may not allow herself time away from the business to enjoy these simple but important pleasures with you.

Consider asking her how the two of you could plan occasional “family time” away from the family business. It strikes me as healthy to be able to step away and just enjoy being together as a family. You might mention that you find yourself starting to resent the time it takes her away from you, and you from the other things you’d like to be able to spend time doing. And if you are planning to go to college (in 18 months or so, right?), she’ll need to start getting used to your not being around all the time as you are now.

You mention that you have considered, and applied for, jobs away from the kennel. I’m not sure what you’ve applied for, or what’s available in your community, but I was surprised to see you write that no one is hiring 16 year olds. Have you considered baby sitting, mowing grass, working in an office or a restaurant, summer camp jobs, afterschool programs with children or seniors, etc? I suggest going beyond what might be listed in the newspaper and look at online job sites, talk to the counselor at school and maybe consider less “traditional” jobs, but more seasonal, part-time for teenagers type jobs.

Getting a job takes work. It takes a well-written resume, creativity and research to find potential openings, following up when you haven’t heard back, and following through when you have. It takes initiative—making “informational interviews” with the type of places you might be interested in—to ask them what they are looking for and what advice they would give you. Talk to adults you know for advice and potential part-time job leads—at school, in the neighborhood, or even a flyer at the kennel (marketing whatever skills you want to make available for clients—maybe they need a driver for errands, someone to do food marketing for them, etc). People want to see that you want this job; they get many resumes, so think of ways to make yourself stand out.

So my advice is to talk with your mom about what’s on your mind. Talk with her about your feelings, your desires, your hopes and dreams, and ask her how the two of you, as a team, could help you reach them. I suspect that acknowledging her perspective and including her in your solution somehow may make the situation less defensive and more loving.

Good luck. I hope this advice helps, and I hope you see some relief and joy in your future.

Letter #: 414428
Category: Career

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